An Arctic Adventure – Louise Walsh

An Arctic Adventure – Louise Walsh

My adventure started back in the summer when my Australian cousin contacted me to say she was coming over to travel in Europe with a friend during her summer break from university. Obviously we arranged to meet in the UK but I cheekily asked where they planned to be the first week in January and if I could join them as I would still be off school.
After much discussion via Facebook messenger we decided on Norway as it ticked off both of our bucket lists. We started to explore where exactly to go, looked at hotels, flights, and what we could afford to do whilst there. Wendy came across the midnight sun marathon and knowing I like a bit of running said I’d have to book for the summer too! Out of curiosity I looked on the website and discovered there was a Polar Night running series which just happened to be the Saturday we’d planned to fly back to the UK.
Well, it had to be done so I decided to extend my stay by one night, booked an extra night and my flight home for first thing on the Sunday morning!

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Almost from the moment of arriving I debated what to wear for the run itself, how many layers? Yaktracs or not? Wished I’d brought my trail shoes as well as road shoes! But I jump ahead!
The first day was clear, cold and icy and by the time I landed in Tromso around 13:30 it was already getting dark. I checked into the hotel, (Clarion Collection With! With what I’m really not sure! Good view, good food, comfy beds, so it could be anything!) discovered there were waffles for guests from 3-6 so helped myself and waited to hear when Wendy would arrive. Turned out they had been delayed, missed the connecting flight and were therefore on standby hoping to catch the last flight of the day. I therefore had supper, a delicious fish stew and went for a wander.
Amazingly because it was so clear and solar activity was high you could see the aurora from the city, it was just beautiful, really magical. Unfortunately the next day when we had actually booked an aurora chase it was forecast to be cloudy, this meant we really did have to chase the clear sky and had a three hour drive to Finland! But, seeing the green and pink waving lines of the northern lights dancing over a frozen lake with mountains all around was most definitely worth the drive and late night!

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Friday we were booked to go dog-sledding so it was up early to drive out of town to find them. The dogs were so excited and it was great fun driving the team of dogs until the couple behind me lost control of their sled and fell off leaving 5 dogs to race ahead, try and overtake and get tangled with me trapping my legs onto the back of my sled with theirs! I wasn’t strong enough to brake 2 sled and 10 dogs so was trapped and could feel my legs bruising as I tried to free myself and move a sled off the back of my legs. One major adrenaline rush (of the wrong sort) later I let my sled partner Bruno, from Italy take over the driving again and calmed myself down until we fell off! No harm done to anyone that time thank goodness! It was fun but not the preparation my legs need before my first international race! Giant bruises on both calf muscles are not what you plan for!

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The following morning I said goodbye to my cousin sending hugs back to Australia and New Zealand and set off to collect my race number. Lots of people were there early as we’d been told there were a limited number of freebies (calendars and posters) and shirts to buy. The shirt was expensive by British standards but reasonable by Norwegian so I treated myself to the long sleeved version decorated with the northern lights. It’s almost too nice to run in!
And so to the race itself. It had been warm (by Arctic standards) all day and with a steady sleet falling I decided that running in slush I’d be fine in my road shoes so together with white thermals, red shirt, red waterproof, red and white hat, stripy leg warmers and team vest I set off for the start. We cheered off the 1/2 marathon and 10k then it was the turn of the 5k. There was a real mixture of people running, the serious, the families, the run walkers and the power walkers. This was definitely the event for everyone. We were given a count down and off we went.

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Taking it cautiously at first to get the feel for the conditions we ran out of the centre of town down the slushy street toward the residential area. The route was a gentle out and back with one undulation to be approached cautiously on the way down each side. Where the street lights were limited, oil burners marked the way and it was nice to see a few locals cheering everyone on. Approaching the finish straight fully lined with burning candles was great and as I was neck and neck with another girl I had to go for it, if I slipped now it didn’t matter and anyway I’d found my feet by then. I gave her a grin and speeded up, she kept up for a bit but I’m not sure she was expecting to sprint for the finish so I’m sure she slowed up as we approached the line!
Foil blankets, a choice of hot or cold drinks and a gorgeous medal depicting the Polar night view of Tromso’s Arctic cathedral were our reward at the end. It was a fabulous race and I’d love to do it again when it is truly Arctic conditions, the sky is clear and the green lady is dancing overhead.
Although it’s never likely to go on the race calendar, it would make a great long weekend away, so if any other red rose members fancy an international race the Polar Night Marathon series in Tromso is definitely special. Let me know, I fancy tackling at least the 10k next time!

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